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Rep. Frank Wolf Introduces Bill To Reauthorize U.S. Commision On International Religious Freedom

freedom-of-religion

Washington, D.C. (May 9, 2014) – Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) today introduced legislation to reauthorize the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which he helped establish in 1998 as the author of the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).  The commission was last reauthorized in September 2011.

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government advisory body charged with monitoring the status of the freedom of religion or belief abroad and providing policy recommendations to the president, Secretary of State and Congress.

“Religious freedom is America’s first freedom, and a vitally important human right enshrined in international law,” Wolf said.  “It should be a bedrock of U.S. foreign policy.  Too often that is not the case.”

“The Commission plays an invaluable role in giving an unvarnished picture of religious freedom violations the world over,” Wolf continued.  “It is well respected on both sides of the aisle for its thoughtful analysis and policy recommendations, and its commissioners are regularly called upon to provide expert testimony at congressional hearings and briefings.  Simply put, the commission’s research informs the work of many in foreign policy-making circles.”

As recent as April 30, 2014, the USCIRF released its annual report which documented religious freedom violations in 33 countries and made a number of policy recommendations, including that 16 countries and recommended that the State Department add eight more nations to its list of “countries of particular concern,” defined under law as countries where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are tolerated or perpetrated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam. USCIRF also recommended that the following eight countries be re-designated as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.  for particularly severe violation of religious freedom.  The report also examines U.S. international religious freedom policy and recommends way to strengthen U.S. engagement and promotion of religious freedom.

Wolf said he looked forward to swift passage of this critical legislation.

Representative Wolf deeply cares and has worked diligently to protect the human right, Freedom of Worship for all people in the world. 

He has long believed that the United States has an obligation to speak out for religious freedom, often referred to as the “first freedom.” Recognizing that religious freedom was often sidelined in our bilateral relations and diplomatic engagement with other countries, in 1998, he authored the International Religious Freedom Act, which created the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) and established the International Religious Freedom Office at the State Department headed by an ambassador-at-large. This was a critical first step in integrating religious freedom into our broader foreign policy, but he says “Much remains to be done.” 

“Sadly, religious freedom advocacy has never been more needed. A landmark report on religious freedom, released by the Pew Forum in 2009, found that “nearly 70 percent of the world’s 6.8 billion people live in countries with high restrictions on religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities. Pew has done subsequent studies on the issue and it’s 2014 report found that incidents of abuse targeting religious minorities were reported in 47% of countries in 2012, up from 38% in 2011 and 24% in the baseline year of the study.” 

“If the international community fails to speak out and advocate for those whose basic human rights are being trampled, the prospects for religious pluralism and tolerance are bleak.”

In January 2013 I reintroduced bipartisan legislation to create a special envoy within the State Department to advocate on behalf of vulnerable religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia.

In countries like Iraq and Egypt, ancient Christian communities are being driven from the lands they have inhabited for centuries.  In Iran, Baha’is are imprisoned and in some cases executed simply because of their faith. In Pakistan, Ahmadi graves are desecrated.  In Afghanistan, a country where America has sacrificed greatly in both blood and treasure, the most basic right to freedom of religion or belief is not recognized in the constitution. This is but a snap shot of the grave challenges facing these communities.

 In January 2011 following a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing during which sobering testimony [was heard] about the challenges facing religious minorities in Iraq and Egypt, Wolf introduced the special envoy, bill – along with Democrat Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, who is of Armenian and Assyrian heritage. The hearing predated the so-called “Arab Spring.” But arguably, the dramatic changes in the region have only made these communities more vulnerable.

Over 20 special envoy posts exist to protect a range of groups and interests, but none is dedicated to the plight of Middle East religious minorities.

On September 18, 2013 the House again overwhelmingly passed the Special Envoy vote by a vote of 402-22, but  it has languished in the Senate.

Wolf is actively working to press for swift Senate action. Each day that passes without a dedicated special envoy to advocate for these besieged religious communities, America’s first freedom, religious freedom, is under assault around the globe.

“I renewed my efforts in the 113th Congress to press for passage of this important legislation and to mobilize faith leaders in the West to advocate for these imperiled communities. In January I sent a letter to more than 300 Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the West, calling for them to use their influence to speak out on behalf of the persecuted Church around the globe, specifically in the Middle East.”

On Wednesday, the Christian leaders  joined forces  to call for an end to the silence over persecuted Christian communities in Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Rep. Wolf has regularly met with beleaguered Christians from this part of the world. He said, “Their stories are eerily similar: believers kidnapped for ransom; churches–some full of worshipers–attacked; clergy targeted for killing. In the face of this violence, Christians are leaving in droves.”

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In countries where Christians must deal with harsh persecution, many are silenced by fear and abuse. The oppressors wish to hide the atrocities from the international community. Those standing up for religious rights and revealing the abuse are threatened to be silent or face severe persecution—death threats, pressured to convert to Islam, beaten, tortured, shot at and even lose their lives. It is not uncommon for them to be fired from their jobs when the employer is pressured to do so by the persecutors. And to further strike fear, their families likely experience all of the above.

The growing radicalism in these countries has forced many religious minorities to live in fear. In Pakistan, where false blasphemy charges have escalated and are abused, Christians asks us, “What has happened to humanity and what have we done to deserve such treatment?” (John 15:18, John 15:20) Simply being in disagreement with the prophet of Islam can wrongfully be proclaimed as blasphemy, denying their freedom of worship.  As seen in recent cases, subjecting them to possible death sentences has also intensified.  Too often and now more frequently, Pakistani citizens trying to make a difference by promoting peace and religious equality are forced to flee the country to spare their lives and that of their families. While Pakistan loses one more of the brave few willing to stand up and be a voice for Christian rights and that of other religious minorities.

In the Bible there is much written about the oppressed and persecuted. Jesus had more to say about the poor than any other group of people. He had great concern for this critical issue and taught us that we should too. As American Christians, if we are earnest about our faith, then we should be compelled to aid the oppressed in the world. Being blessed by God living in a nation of great freedom, should we not use this gift and ability to be a voice for those who don’t?

VOP and persecuted Christians appreciate the work of Rep. Wolf. May the Lord bless him in his efforts.

Engage and inform others on the topic of Christian persecution. And get them praying for our suffering brethren!

Ethiopian Suspects Etch Cross on Chest of Saudi National

ethopiansdeportedSaudi

Ethiopian migrants pushed to the edge?

Zegabi reports-Unidentified suspects, thought to be Ethiopian migrants, attacked a Saudi Arabian man on Saturday and carved a Christian cross on his chest, according to a report by Arab News.

This attack comes following an operation by Saudi officials to expel all illegal immigrants from the oil rich nation. Since the operation began early in November, there are reports that about 3 Ethiopian nationals have been killed and many others gravely abused. Ethiopians across the world have held protests in the past two weeks, rebuking the Saudi government’s clamp down. The Ethiopian government is reportedly in the process of repatriating over 23,000 of its citizens who are in Saudi Arabia illegally.

According to the report of the incident, the suspected Ethiopian attackers confronted the Saudi Arabian man, who was driving around Casablanca, Al Ha-da area, knocking him unconscious before carving a cross on his chest with a metal object. The suspects fled the scene before the police arrived, but the authorities are reported to have been able to apprehend a number of suspects of Ethiopian origin in the area with the aid of locals.

Following reports of this attack, there have been speculations that the Ethiopian nationals behind the attack may be retaliating the perceived wrong wrought on their kinsmen by Saudi officials during the ongoing mass repatriation exercise. But neither Saudi Arabia nor Ethiopia have so far issued a statement to validate or dispute this claim.

This is not the first incident that highlights an underground religious conflict in the Muslim kingdom. Although no public churches operate in Saudi Arabia, Christians are reported to exist in the country—holding their meetings in individual houses and other locations. Several people reported to be Christians have been arrested by Saudi Arabia’s “religious police”, the Mutaween (or Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) in the past for practicing their faith in public or attempting to proselytize to Muslims. Last year, about 36 Christians who had been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia were released after much criticism from governments and human right groups.

Pundits say Saudi official are dedicated to ensuring the kingdom retains its characteristic Islamic roots. Last year, Fox News quoted the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh saying it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula.” But Saudi officials insist Christians are only arrested when they attempt to convert Muslims to their faith–by practicing in public. In Saudi Arabia, converting from Islam to Christianity is punishable by death.

Ethiopia is a traditionally orthodox christian state, the faith is reported to have been practiced in the state at least since the 4th century. Naturally, the thousands of Ethiopian migrants who are reported to travel to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia yearly attempt to practice their religion— but with great difficulty. While Christians face persecution in Saudi Arabia, Muslims also face persecution in Ethiopia. In the past few years, the Ethiopian government is reported to have increased surveillance of its relatively small Muslim population, with several clashes and arrests recorded.

In a Wikileaks report, Sheikh Elias Redman, a notable figure in the Ethiopian Muslim community noted that fundamentalist Wahhabist influence is spreading among Ethiopian Muslims, threatening the existence of Ethiopia’s Sufi version of Islam which promotes religious tolerance and co-existence with Christians. The Sheikh also revealed that these attempts are being supported by Saudi Arabia, allegedly to influence Ethiopia’s moderate Muslims with the Kingdom’s more traditional version of the religion.

Photo: Migrants wait to be transported to deportation centres in Riyadh. [AFP/Fayez Nureldine]

‘The Persecution Of Christians Is Increasing’

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Worldwide approximately 100 million Christians are being persecuted because of their faith, according to estimates from the German aid organization Open Doors. An improvement to the situation is not in sight.

DW: Mr. Müller, as a analyst for the German aid organization Open Doors, which supports persecuted Christians worldwide, you observed that the five countries in which Christians are being persecuted the most are, first and foremost, North Korea, then Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Have these countries been on top of the list for years or have there been significant changes?

Thomas Müller: You can basically say that this situation has been going on for years. For the eleventh consecutive time North Korea is in first place in our rankings of countries in which Christians are being persecuted and oppressed the most. And that isn’t surprising considering what you hear from inside the country. It is understandable if people say: ‘Wait, there are really Christians left there?’ Yes, there are, but they have to go underground. As soon as they are found, they will most likely be sent to a labor camp or even worse.

Are there any countries where the persecution of Christians is decreasing?

There are countries where there is a little bit of hope – a couple of countries in Southeast Asia for instance. One of the countries worth mentioning here is Myanmar, formerly Burma, which has made international headlines because the military junta has at least given up parts of its power. However, one of the largest minorities in Myanmar is a Christian minority group, the Kachin. The military is still fighting against the Kachin and so you can absolutely wonder who really has the power in Myanmar. Is it the military or is it the president? And in the case of the Kachin or the Shan and other minorities it hits the Christians hard – churches are attacked there because people escape to those churches.

The persecution of Christians has different facets – from direct physical violence to discrimination in daily life by authorities or in shops. Is there a trend that the persecution of Christians has become more violent?

The tendency we see is that before it was the state that was the persecutor. Think about communism for example. But throughout the last few years it has shifted to governments realizing that persecuting Christians or other minorities means bad press. They decided it’s easier to support independent groups or supposedly independent groups that will persecute the Christians. So altogether the situation unfortunately hasn’t improved and persecution hasn’t decreased. Especially in countries that many had high hopes for, such as Egypt, where numerous attacks against the Coptic minority have recently occurred. We can’t talk about an Arab Spring anymore; after all, it’s eight to 10 million people that are affected.

You don’t just capture the persecution of Christians in abstract numbers, but you also analyze the persecution extensively. Have you found any prominent trends?

The trend is that unfortunately we see Islamic extremism increasing further. There are a couple of groups that have unfortunately even made it into Western media. I just want to mention Boko Haram in Nigeria, where there have been attacks again and again, especially against Christians. Another example from this year would be Mali, where in the last year Islamist groups have conquered the entire North. Recently there was an attack on a church in Pakistan, the harshest assault that has ever occurred against a Christian church in this country. Hence the violence is increasing and it is not focused on a certain region.

What you describe paints a grim picture. Is this also your prognosis for the persecution of Christians in the future?

I don’t see a change happening in these countries as long as people don’t understand that with all the welcome democratization tendencies happening, democracy doesn’t simply consist of having elections but also calls for the protection of minorities. That’s not only the case for the countries I’ve already mentioned, but also for democratic countries, such as Indonesia, where democracy has been working well for a couple of years now. But even there the protection of minorities is not ensured and to some extent there are violent assaults against Christians or churches simply being shot at.

You describe the mechanism that you currently observe. But that’s not a prognosis. What is your estimation for the future?

My estimation is that we will not see any improvement, at least not to a large extent. Maybe there will be a change in certain countries, for example Bhutan, where you can absolutely see that Christians have been doing better there throughout the last few years, even though they still don’t have any freedom. But altogether and as long as Muslim extremists are increasingly popular, it’s not looking so great. And as long as this extremism stays – and the signs point towards this at the moment – I would say there won’t be any improvement.

Thomas Müller (name has been changed by the editorial department) is a lawyer and works as an analyst for the German aid organization Open Doors. Open Doors is an interdenominational Christian aid organization supporting persecuted Christians whose religious freedom is vigorously restricted. The aid organization also compiles a study of the number of persecuted Christians and the political background of the persecution.

Deutsche Welle

Risk Taking Christianity – a True Story

Reblogged from The Seduction of Christianity | Alan Vincent

If you are a Christian, this video will touch you deeply. It is a true story about a young girl who converted from Islam to Christianity. Contemporary society upholds a Christianity that is self-serving. This is because we have become lovers of self more than lovers of God, a trait that the Bible teaches will be the hallmark of the church at the end of this age.

I recently came across this quotation on http://waltsamp.wordpress.com/

The Self-Centered Church comes directly from our self-centered society. The core of the Self-Centered Church is an inward-looking view of what Christianity is meant to be. In this church what matters is that God thinks of them highly and lovingly. Their songs contain a lot of Ime, and my instead of second and third person pronouns such as youhe, and his. Their self-centeredness can go as far as to think that God’s happiness depends on their performance as a Christian. They think a lot about their time, their possessions, their safety and their personal peace. Obviously this church does not think much of others except in what way helping them might increase their own self-esteem.

By contrast Jesus said that we are to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He also said that if He, as the Master, was persecuted, then we too (as His followers) would persecuted.

We do not like persecution. It brings back memories of being bullied at school, We are selfish by nature and resort to self preservation. But Jesus also said that if we want to find life, we must be willing to lose it.

Even nature proves this point. In order for a plant to reproduce life, it first has to die. The seed must fall to the ground before it can reproduce life.

And herein lies the dilemma. We do not want to die (to self). We have been conditioned to live for the “good things” of this life – things that can in fact not produce life in us. We have become slaves of this lie. Jesus said “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life”. He also claimed that “no man can come to God the Father except through me”.

Jesus promised an abundant, eternal life, but what he did not mean was the brand of designer Christianity that we see promulgated as Christianity in mega churches.

The crux of the matter is that as Christians we are called to lose our identity and to identify with the suffering of Jesus Christ. Any other version of the gospel is false and serves the lie.

Christian Persecution, Stop the Silence

via World Chaos News

Some of the images contained in this video are disturbing. Viewer discretion is advised.

Saudi Arabia jails two men, one Lebanese for helping woman convert to Christianity

Saudi Arabia

RIYADH (AFP) — A Saudi court jailed a Lebanese man for six years and sentenced him to 300 lashes after convicting him of encouraging a Saudi woman to convert to Christianity, local dailies reported Sunday.

The same court sentenced a Saudi man convicted in the same case to two years in prison and 200 lashes for having helped the young woman flee the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, local daily Al-Watan said.

A court delivered the verdict in Khobar in the kingdom’s east, where the woman and the two accused worked for an insurance company.

The July 2012 case caused a stir in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Islamic Sharia law that stipulates Muslims who convert to another religion must be sentenced to death.

The woman, known only as “the girl of Khobar”, was granted refuge in Sweden where she lives under the protection of unspecified NGOs, according to local press reports.

She had appeared in a YouTube video last year in which she announced that she had chosen to convert to Christianity.

The case of the “Khobar Girl,” as she has become known in the Saudi media,  has captivated the deeply conservative kingdom. Under Saudi law, any form of  proselytization is illegal, and Muslims who convert to another religion must be  sentenced to death.

The woman, who is in her early 20s, is currently living abroad in Sweden,  according to local press reports.

Last year she appeared in a video for a site called “Jesus Set Me Free,” an  Arabic-language Evangelical Christian website, to announce her conversion.

In the video, the girl, her face covered, urges others to “ask God” if they  are “hesitant or afraid,” emphasizing her belief that “[Jesus] is the son of God  and I have seen him” in her dreams.

Her family’s lawyer Hmood al-Khalidi said he was “satisfied with the verdict,” according to the press.

Both men, who could also be prosecuted over other charges including corruption and forging official documents that allowed the woman to leave the country without her family’s agreement, will appeal.

Saudi women are banned from traveling without their guardians’ permission.

Sources: The Daily Star – Ma’an News Agency – YouTube

USCIRF’s 2013 Annual Report on the State of International Religious Freedom Identifies World’s Worst Violators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

April 30, 2013| By USCIRF

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent federal advisory body created by the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) to monitor religious freedom abuses abroad, today released its 2013 Annual Report.  The Report highlights the status of religious freedom globally and identifies those governments that are the most egregious violators.

“The state of international religious freedom is increasingly dire due to the presence of forces that fuel instability.  These forces include the rise of violent religious extremism coupled with the actions and inactions of governments.   Extremists target religious minorities and dissenters from majority religious communities for violence, including physical assaults and even murder.  Authoritarian governments also repress religious freedom through intricate webs of discriminatory rules, arbitrary requirements and draconian edicts,” said Dr. Katrina Lantos Swett, USCIRF’s Chair.

The 2013 Annual Report recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight nations as “countries of particular concern” or CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.  USCIRF finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated:  Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

“The Annual Report ultimately is about people and how their governments treat them. Violations affect members of diverse religious communities around the world, be they Rohinghya Muslims in Burma, Coptic Christians in Egypt, Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and Falun Gong in China, Baha’is in Iran, Ahmadis and Christians in Pakistan, or Muslims in Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and in non-Muslim nations like Russia.  We recommend that the White House adopt a whole-of-government strategy to guide U.S. religious freedom promotion and that Secretary of State Kerry promptly designate CPCs, before currently designated actions expire later this year,” said Lantos Swett.

In Burma, ongoing political reforms have yet to significantly improve the situation for freedom of religion and belief.  Sectarian violence and severe abuses of religious freedom and human dignity targeting ethnic minority Christians and Muslims continue to occur with impunity.

In Egypt, despite some progress during a turbulent political transition, the government has failed or been slow to protect from violence religious minorities, particularly Coptic Christians. The government continues to prosecute, convict, and imprison individuals for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion, and the new constitution includes several problematic provisions relevant to religious freedom.

In both Pakistan and Nigeria, religious extremism and impunity have factored into unprecedented levels of violence that threaten the long-term viability of both nations.  Targeted violence against Shi’i Muslims in Pakistan is pervasive, while repeated Boko Haram attacks in Nigeria exacerbate sectarian tensions.

“Many of these countries top the U.S. foreign policy agenda, and religion is a core component in their makeup.  Successful U.S. foreign policy recognizes the critical role religious freedom plays in each of these nations and prioritizes accordingly. Religious freedom is both a pivotal human right under international law and a key factor that helps determine whether a nation experiences stability or chaos,” said Lantos Swett.

USCIRF also announced the placement of eight nations on its Tier 2 List for 2013.  The Tier 2 category replaces the Watch List designation USCIRF previously used.  These nations are: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia. USCIRF found the violations these governments engage in or tolerate are particularly severe, and meet at least one criterion, but not all, of IRFA’s three-fold “systematic, ongoing, egregious” CPC standard.

In Russia, religious freedom conditions suffered major setbacks in the context of growing human rights abuses. In Indonesia, the country’s rich tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism is seriously threatened by arrests of individuals the government considers religiously deviant and violence perpetrated by extremist groups. Federal and provincial officials, police, courts, and religious leaders often tolerate and abet the conduct of religious freedom abusers.

The USCIRF report also highlights the status of religious freedom in countries/regions that do not meet the Tier 1 (CPC) or Tier 2 threshold. These include: Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Ethiopia, Turkey, Venezuela and Western Europe. The Annual Report also addresses in-depth thematic issues:  Constitutional Changes; Severe Religious Freedom Violations by Non-State Actors; Laws against Blasphemy and Defamation of Religions; Imprisonment of Conscientious Objectors; Legal Retreat from Religious Freedom in Post-Communist Countries; Kidnapping and Forced Religious De-Conversion in Japan; and Religious Freedom Issues in International Organizations.

ABOUT USCIRF

USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government advisory body with its commissioners appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in Congress.  The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) requires that the United States annually designate as CPCs countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief.  IRFA also tasks USCIRF with assessing conditions in these and other countries and making recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and Congress.

In accordance with IRFA, USCIRF uses international standards, as found in UN conventions and declarations, for assessing religious freedom conditions.

Persecution News Weekly Update February 25, 2013

Strengthening the Underground Church in Somalia (February 14, 2013) The Christian community of Somalia is one of the most persecuted and secretive populations in the world. Because of intense levels of persecution, it is estimated that the numbers of Christians in Somalia may be as little as 550 individuals. Most are forced to worship at clandestine Bible studies conducted at the homes of other believers. Living in a failed state and in a society that is openly hostile towards Christians, underground churches are in desperate need of educated leaders, Bibles in the Somali language and other basic Christian resources. READ MORE

Saudi Hypocrisy at Its Best (February 14, 2013) Few things offer surreal experiences as when Islam and the West interact—when 7th century primordialism encounters 21st century relativism. Consider the issue of “interfaith dialogue.” In  principle, it is a decent thing: Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others  trying to reach a common ground and professing mutual respect. But what does one make of the gross contradictions that emerge when a  human-rights violating nation calls for “dialogue,” even as it enforces religious intolerance on its own turf? Enter Saudi Arabia. Birthplace of Islam, the Arabian kingdom is also the one Muslim nation that regularly sponsors interfaith initiatives in  the West—even as its official policy back home is to demonize and  persecute the very faiths it claims to want to have an interfaith dialogue with. READ MORE

  • July 2008A historic interfaith dialogue conference was initiated by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to solve world problems through concord instead of conflict. The conference was attended by religious leaders of different faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism and was hosted by King Juan Carlos of Spain in Madrid. Source
  • KAICIID Dialogue Centre – King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, globally known by its abbreviation: KAICIID, is a controversial but uniquely empathic non-governmental, not-for-profit worldwide organization founded in October 2011 by King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Accordingly, the Republic of Austria and the Kingdom of Spain are also backing the Centre with the aim of keeping KAICIID free from all political interference and influence. Source (Does this not send up red flags for you?)

Two More Churches Hit in Makassar Molotov Cocktail Attacks (February 14, 2013) Police in Makassar, South Sulawesi, are standing guard outside churches after would-be arsonists hit two more churches in a second wave of attacks early Thursday morning. Unknown assailants hurled homemade molotov cocktails at the South Sulawesi Indonesian Christian Church (GKI) and the Toraja Klassis Makassar Church Panakkukang Congregation in a pair of coordinated 4 a.m. attacks. Both churches suffered fire damage in the attempted fire bombings, police said. READ MORE

BAHRAIN: Sentenced to two years in prison for advocating and exercising the right to peaceful assembly (February 14, 2013)

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), publishes today a report, which presents findings of a judicial observation mission conducted on the trial in appeal of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. The report concludes that a series of violations of the right to fair trial marred the judicial process and that Mr. Nabeel Rajab is suffering judicial harassment for merely advocating for and exercising the right to peaceful assembly in Bahrain.
While February 14, 2013 marks the second anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain, Mr. Nabeel Rajab, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), remains detained in Jaw Prison, serving a two-year prison sentence. On December 11, 2012 the Appeals Court in Bahrain confirmed his conviction on charges of calling for and participating in peaceful gatherings on three occasions. As of today, he has been in detention for 217 days. READ MORE
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3427287791_7a5664d8eb_mA Deafening Silence? (CSW) Mervyn Thomas’s blog series on the role of the Americas in combating global religious persecution. This week I’m looking at Congressman Frank Wolf’s uncompromising challenge to Church Leaders in the West. “Have we in the West ceased to be salt and light? Has our comfort led to complacency?“ These words were still ringing in my ears when I visited Frank Wolf on Capitol Hill this week. His recent letter to hundreds of Protestant and Catholic leaders is an impassioned plea to Western churches to speak up on behalf of those millions around the world who suffer because of their faith.

“God forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.”

He quotes a story from the book When A Nation Forgets God by Erwin Lutzer, a German Christian. Lutzer recounted how the trains taking Jews to death camps would pass by his church every Sunday during the Holocaust. “Their screams tormented us,” he wrote, “but … what could anyone do to stop it? We knew the time the train was coming and when we heard the whistle blow we began singing hymns. By the time the train came past our church we were singing at the top of our voices. If we heard the screams, we sang more loudly and soon we heard them no more. Years have passed and no one talks about it anymore. But I still hear that train whistle in my sleep. God forgive me; forgive all of us who called ourselves Christians and yet did nothing to intervene.” READ MORE

Campaign of letters, support for persecuted Church- “For some reason, the Church in the West has really gone silent. They just don’t speak out for the persecuted Christians around the world.” Wolf, who co-chairs the sponsoring Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, adds the Church has a bigger… obligation than government officials to call Christians into action on behalf of the persecuted Church. “I would love the Church to adopt persecuted Christians,” he says. “I mean, you have Catholic bishops and Protestant pastors in jail in China, and nobody even knows who they are and nobody says anything. You have Iraqi Christians who speak the same language Jesus did — the Aramaic language — and you can’t even get people in the West to advocate for them.” READ MORE
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Urgent prayer request for Columbian pastor who has received death threats
We ask prayers for Alfonso Murillo, a pastor in northern Colombia who has received death threats from illegal prayer-158x238armed groups, forcing him to flee for three months. Recently he returned home; however, the threats have continued. The pastor has reported these threats to government authorities and requested protection, which the authorities have not granted him. He approached Open Doors Colombia requesting protection. We ask prayers for his protection and protection for his family.
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Religious persecution, rape still evident in Kachin State- Sixty-six Christian churches have been burnt down in Kachin state since the conflict erupted in June 2011, according to the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT), a figure that is backed by Myitkyina-based Kachin Baptist Convention. Speaking at a seminar at Chiang Mai University on Friday, Julia Marip of KWAT said that the burning of churches by Myanmar government forces amounts to religious persecution. lso on Friday, a group of Roman Catholic bishops in Kachin State called for peace. ccording to website CatholicCulture, spokesman Bishop Francis Daw Tang of Myitkyina said, “As a church, we walk with our displaced people, watch their lives being destroyed by war, their families fragmented by the depressing life in the displaced camps.” He accused government forces were waging “unequal warfare” on Christian holy days.
Kwat’s Marip said there are now 100,000 people displaced by the conflict in Kachin State, 60,000 of whom are sheltered at the Sino-Myanmar border or other areas under Kachin rebel control, and 40,000 in areas under government control. Marip said her organization had continuing evidence of systematic rape by Myanmar troops against Kachin and other ethnic women. She said KWAT had recorded 30 incidents where 64 women or girls had been sexually assaulted in Kachin State since the conflict began. “But there could be many more cases that we have not been able to document,” she said, explaining that NGOs were unable to make contact with many rural areas and villages under government control.  “Half of those women raped were killed afterward,” she said. SOURCE

German Christians May Face Jail Time for Homeschooling Children – Homeschooling Not a Fundamental Right, Justice Dept. Argues. ICC Note: In an unusual case an evangelical German family that fled to the United States. READ MORE

Libya: Christians arrested and allegedly tortured for proselytizing- Arrests continue of Christians accused of proselytizing in Libya, with a total of seven now known to be in custody including one reported to have been tortured, sources said.
Four expatriate Christians in the eastern coastal town of Benghazi were arrested on Feb. 10, accused of proselytizing. Libya’s Preventative Security Unit arrested the Egyptian, South African, Korean and dual Swedish-American Christians, who have yet to be officially charged. On Feb. 13, Preventative Security officers picked up two more Egyptian Christians, and another Egyptian Christian was arrested by Feb. 16, sources said. All the detainees were being held in Benghazi. It was unclear what led to their arrests. Peventative Security spokesman Hussein Bin Hmeid said in a statement to Reuters that the four Christians originally arrested were printing books calling for conversion to Christianity. He said the country is 100 percent Muslim and that proselytizing “affects our national security.” READ MORE

PROJECT UPDATE | Rescued: A Home for 100 Children
kidsLast summer, we learned that Christian children from poor tribal areas in the mountains of Bangladesh were being trafficked from their homes and sold to Islamic Training Centers (madrassas…) in various cities. As news was released about the rescue of the first 19 children, whom ICC now cares for, families began to come forward asking for help finding their missing children. They thought they were sending their children to Christian schools in the city, but as an ICC partner investigated it became apparent that upwards of 300 children were told that same lie and are now suffering in madrassas around Bangladesh. In addition to the first 19 rescued, ICC, its partners, and the communities are joined together to build a safe hostel for 100 children to live. As of now, the first 90 have arrived. Plans are already being discussed to build safe hostels for others to go to once they are rescued. In these hostels, the children have their daily needs met, receive Christian spiritual education, and go to school. They are free, happy, healthy and have a bright future in front of them.
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Accused of worshipping “Wrong God” couple loses 14 adopted children- (BarnabasAid) A Christian couple in Russia have had their 14 adopted children removed by the authorities, in a case that bears the marks of religious discrimination. Although Ilya Yaroslavkin, a church pastor, and his wife Lubov have won awards and been praised for their exceptional care, local authorities accused them of worshipping “the wrong god” and following “unintelligible church traditions”. The couple’s children were removed from their schools on 12 September 2012 without being able to say goodbye to their parents. Pray for this family, which has been so cruelly torn apart. Ask that the Lord will comfort Ilya and Lubov and their children as they endure this separation, and that the decision will be overturned so that the family can be reunited. SOURCE

 Another Christian girl raped in district Kasur of Punjab province of Pakistan- Pakistan, Pattoki: Legal Evangelical Association Development reports that while the rape case of a Christian girl, Fouzia Bibi is still under investigation  violence and pressure on the victim’s family continues. They have also pressured LEAD trying to avoid proceedings in this case. Both are facing these problems, including financial crisis. READ MORE
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How China Plans to Wipe Out House Churches China’s Christians felt a noticeable rise in persecution in 2012 as the Communist government began the first of a three-phase plan to eradicate unregistered house churches, a new report says. Incidents of persecution of Christians rose by about 42 percent last year compared with 2011, according to the report by human rights group China Aid. Many of these incidents involved groups of Christians. In total, the number of individual persecuted Christians rose by roughly 14 percent and total individual detentions increased by nearly 12 percent. China Aid said overall total persecution in six categories was about 13 percent worse than in 2011—though China Aid termed its statistics just “the tip of the iceberg.” READ MORE
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Key immigration role urged for new religious-freedom ambassador- An evangelical Christian leader wants the federal government’s new ambassador for religious freedom to play a central role in screening refugees and immigrants fleeing religious persecution. Nearly two years after promising to name Canada’s first ambassador for religious freedom, Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to make the long-delayed announcement Tuesday at a Toronto-area mosque and community center. READ MORE
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Syria – Russian Orthodox Church fears for Christians
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Tanzania Too: Christians Threatened with Islamist Violence on Easter- Tanzania is the latest in a growing number of African countries to be struggling  with escalating Islamist terror. In this country of 45 million people, over 60  percent of whom are Christian, church leaders are the canaries in the coalmine.  On Sunday, 55-year-old Catholic priest Father Evarist Mushi was shot dead by  assailants on a motorcycle in front of Zanzibar’s St. Joseph’s Cathedral just  before Sunday morning Mass. According to the Pontifical news agency Fides, local  bishops and priests received a message claiming responsibility from a group  calling itself “Muslim Renewal.” READ MORE

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A Hindu Who Converted To Christianity Gunned Down For His Faith By Muslim- Pakistan Lahore: On February 16, 2013, a 45 year old Christian man, Roshan Masih was murdered after a trivial disagreement on faith with a Muslim, Sohail Akhtar. Twenty years ago Roshan Masih(Hindu name Lal Ram) had migrated from Metro Basti Tehsil Fortabas, Behawal Nagar and settled in Lahore after accepting Jesus Christ. He was living at Jughian Asam Town in Lahore. READ MORE

Saeed Learns About #SaveSaeed, News Brings “Hope” in His “Dark Prison” – The Iranian prison guards told Saeed we’d abandoned him, that he was forgotten and alone.  Saeed’s family told him that hundreds of thousands of Americans had signed petitions for his freedom, and they told him of the musicians who were all rallying to support him and call for his freedom. READ MORE
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Two Christian Pastors In India Arrested After Being Beaten- Pastor Mallik Arjun knew something was wrong when he received a call from the cell phone of his friend and fellow pastor in Gadag District, Karnataka state – but it was a stranger on the other end of the line. READ MORE
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Sudanese Government Detains Over 50 Christians SUDAN-Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has learned that at least 55 Christians have been detained by the Sudanese government for approximately two weeks without charge.  According to CSW’s sources, the group, which has no political affiliations and includes church leaders, has been falsely accused of receiving money from foreign countries, including Israel. READ MORE
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Madhya Pradesh: Hindu fundamentalists attack Christians even in the privacy of their homes In two separate incidents, Pentecostal clergymen are accused of forced conversions. For the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), India’s constitution guarantees freedom of worship and praying at home does not violate the penal code. READ MORE
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Saeed Abedini’s Letter from Inside Iran’s Evin PrisonIn a rare event, American Pastor Saeed Abedini was recently able to write a letter to his family and all those in support of him. In the letter, he describes the brutal treatment and pressure he’s enduring at the notorious Evin prison in Iran. He has now been imprisoned for close to 5 months. He describes the pain of not being able to see his family, physical and psychological abuse, humiliation and the bullyng by extremist and others incarcerated within the prison. In one incident, he was attacked by an inmate for singing praise and worship songs. In his latest letter, Saeed says he is still being threatened with death. He also confirms the torture and mental abuse continues, as means to make him recant his faith in Christ. This, he says he will never do. He wrote: READ MORE
From a brother in Nigeria: 
2012415“I ask that you don’t forget to pray for us.We need your prayers.”
He says, Boko haram has now divided. The first is controlled by (Sheikh Shakarau, (NORTH DIVISION).  The second, he can’t confirm the leader, IS TRYING TO ADVANCE TO THE SOUTH. They’re involved in kidnapping of foreigners in Bauchi (NORTH). They attac…k the JTF going to Mali (at KOGI). Their aim is to spread their tentacles to unaffected areas, and the SOUTHWEST is their first thought)…..Brethren, Are we going to be watching these EVILs break into our house before we can Pray for Help? Here in the North, every Sunday is a (RED-DAY). Though there’s no bombing of churches for the past 3 weeks, they break into one’s house and kill people. “On Sundays, very few people can stand up with Faith to go to Church”.

I’M PRAYING THAT THESE THINGS WILL NOT HAPPEN IN THE SOUTH. WE NEED GOD’S HELP!

Psalms 121 says
“I will lift up my eyes unto the Hills, from whence cometh my (OUR) HELP.
My (Our) help comes from the LORD, which made heaven and the earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be Moved; he that Keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper; the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all Evil; he shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time Forth, and even for evermore.”

Amen

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